Monday, September 5, 2016

Charlie’s Angels 2:1 “Angels on Ice” (Parts I and II)

Airdate: 9/21/77

The Angels get comp tickets to an ice show, but their suspicions that it’s not entirely a leisure event are justified when the show’s owner, Max, request the girls for a job. He’s got problems: his office broken into, and his two lead skaters, Jack and Helene, gone, but we know better. A slow-witted, unctuous trainer named Billy, with a case of the incredible hots for Miss H, had a hit put on Jack, but the plot backfired when the thugs took them both (suspiciously paying Billy for the dirty deed). So the Angels of course do what they do best – go undercover at the rink to get to the bottom of the ill-timed disappearing act.

Kris hangs around Jack’s cuckolded wife, Shirley, while Sabrina impersonates a conglomerate rep to get the skinny on Billy. But to really get in on things, Kris and Kelly audition to be skaters for the show, actually succeeding too (with a little director schmoozing). But Jack and Helene’s kidnappers turn out to be more nefarious than first imagined, now enlisting the cold-blooded services of assassins in the form of a expert Russian skating couple named Olga and Luisi. Oh, and did I also mention that they abduct prop master Iggy (Jim Backus) and replace him with a sinister thug named Durgas who replaces the fake guns with realies? 

Part II: Plying a parking lot drunk with wine, Sabrina figures out that the abductors are most likely foreign agents, while Kelly notices the skating wunderkinds’ very first “goof” - pointing their rifles directly at very specific spectator seats. Kris gets the thankless task of accepting Billy’s dinner invitation to learn more about the nameless kidnappers who abducted Helene. But when Kelly trails the baddies’ to a Middle Eastern restaurant, and finds herself their latest abductee when she impersonates a belly dancer, she pretty much cracks the code: our evildoers are oil-thirsty, underground Arabs sheiks with fellow sheiks, as diplomats, in their sights – literally. It takes some quick thinking by Kris, as a clown, to stymie the whole plot, and make it al look like it’s part of the show.

You know your show’s a hit when you get to start your second season with two back-to-back, double-length episodes. (Angels closed its first season at #5, and was rewarded with an hour-earlier timeslot at 9:00, still outside the almighty “family hour.”) They sure had the budget for it, and were clearly eager to spend it on glitz and spectacle, given the topic matter of this installment. Say what you want, but it is remarkable how they were able to take two then-topical topics -  ice shows and the Arab oil embargo - and somehow fit them together on the same show.

And yet, there’s a lot of sturm und drang here for
what turns out to be a pretty silly premise. Ok, sure we’ll give them an Ice Capades show, but the evil Arabs’ plot to infiltrate the show with two star skaters who plan to blow away an entire seating section is about as loony as you can get. (I’m guessing the writers had just seen that year’s Black Sunday, as the two schemes are pretty similar.) Charlie’s Angels was never exactly Mission: Impossible but it always stayed well with the realm of credibility. This time, it’s impossible for one not to count up the number of times the Arabs’ plot would’ve completely fallen apart in the real world, starting with the McGuffin event of the owner actually having a spectator’s seating chart stolen from his office. How would he know? Why would he care to have a chart drawn up? Because of the Arab bigwigs being there? Wouldn’t its theft, then, be a red flag? And why does nobody, except Kelly (who catches on far too late), figure out that this flood of strangers into the cast, with thick Eastern-European acents, is probably a cause for concern, particularly given the unexplained disappearance of the two star skaters?

Ah, well, if it’s complete cheese, so be it, but it does afford us the opportunity to watch some legendary comedy veterans in supporting roles, starting with Phil Silvers as the owner of the show, frazzled to the hilt by the notion of his production falling apart at the seams. And boy does he play frazzled great, abetted with some clever lines that he delivers like a pro. And then there’s Jim Backus as the Gepetto-like propmaster, who doesn’t even have to act  - he just steals scenes with that trademark voice. Rounding out the pantheon is iconic character actor Edward Andrews, playing a parking lot drunk who helps the Angels with his unwitting recognizance. Younger folks probably know him best as the grandfather in Sixteen Candles.

And lets not forget James Gammon as the mentally-challenged Billy, whose performance starts off feeling a bit stereotypical but actually turns out to be quite affecting. His scene with Kris, in which he breaks down in tears over the loss of his beloved Helena, along with the guilt he suffers over having caused it, is particularly emotional, and while we’re at it, Cheryl Ladd is fitting in quite nicely in her role too. 

No, it definitely won’t go down as the most politically-correct moment on television, what with its cartoony depiction of Arabs (Charlie even uses the then-accepted mispronunciation of “sheik”). But, as I mentioned, it was timely.

Jaclyn Smith fan alert. She was a great belly-dancing scene about halfway through. No, she’s not really belly-dancing, but it’s close enough, and she looks phenomenal. Also stay tuned for her scene in captivity, where she jumps up to escape through the skylight, still wearing her revealing Arabian get-up. Also, she gets mad props for using the word “fortuitous” correctly.

Beautiful song, “If We Only Have Love,” sung by Dede Andros during Olga and Luisi’s tryout, was written by Jacques Brei and recorded only by Johnny Mathis. Don’t skip it.

It really is hard to resist the Angels charm though. Just don’t think to hard here and you’ll wind up having a fairly swell time.

Client: Max Brown (Silvers)

Plot difficulty level: 6  (But, as per, pay attention during the info-heavy debrief.)

                         Rating:  *** 

P.S. Oh, and BTW, this is the first episode to feature the new opening, amended to include Kris and explain how she attended the San Francisco police academy (the others went to L.A.). Ladd’s clips are of course all new, and Kate Jackson gets a few new shots, but Smith and Doyle’s remain unchanged.

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